THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

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BBC
The Tenth Planet

Episodes 4 'We are called Cybermen.'
Story No# 29
Production Code DD
Season 4
Dates Oct. 8, 1966 -
Oct. 29, 1966

With William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton,
Michael Craze, Anneke Wills.
Script-edited by Gerry Davis. Directed by Derek Martinus.
Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Cybermen attempt to drain the Earth of its energy and threaten to turn the human population into cybernetic organisms in the first Doctor's final story.

Note: Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

A Review by Mark Permerter 6/10/97

Thanks in part to the debut of the Cybermen, the First Doctor's regeneration into that of the Second Doctor, and persistant rumors that episode 4 ("missing" from the BBC archives) exists in the hands of collectors/fans, The Tenth Planet has become something of a legend in the Doctor Who canon. Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, the story is largely a vehicle for introducing the Cybermen, intended by producer Innes Lloyd as a successor to the ever-popular Daleks.

In this capacity, The Tenth Planet succeeds: the Cybermen are mysterious and formidable. However, aside from invading the South Pole Space Tracking Station, they are given too little to do. Such a fate also plagues the human cast: the First Doctor spends much of the story unconscious or merely acting as an informed observer offering occassional advice; Ben and Polly, along with the staff of the South Pole Tracking Station, have little to do other than repeatedly fight-off the attacking Cybermen and thwart General Cutler's plan to use the deadly Z-Bomb against the invading planet Mondas. Aside from the Cybermen, the overall production simply lacks the intensity and depth of characterisation found in other classic sixties Doctor Who invasion stories.

On a positive note, the exterior scenes of the South Pole are very well done, and director Derek Martinus introduces the Cybermen in memorable fashion at the climax to episode 1; The regeneration scene is also quite memorable. Although it cannot be disputed that The Tenth Planet is a memorable slice of Doctor Who nostalgia, it ultimately fails to achieve its full potential. While waiting for episode 4 to be unearthed, or the BBC to commercially release episodes 1-3, The Tenth Planet can be enjoyed via the Telesnap Video or by reading the novelisation written by co-author Gerry Davis.


A Review by David Masters 15/1/98

As with most long-running series, those stories that occupy a pivotal position in the show's development tend to generate a mythical quality that is often at odds with the broadcast program, and, unfortunately, The Tenth Planet is such an example.

Whilst the storyline tries to put a fresh spin on a not uncommon SF theme, neither script nor the execution really do justice to the underlying concepts. The guest characters come from stock: the tough guy general, more concerned with the fate of his son that the fate of the world; and the two scientists, one nervous and weak-willed, the other stronger and more heroic. The other speaking parts are little more than walk-ons. Amongst the more embarrassing portrayals are the American troops with their hopelessly implausible accents and equally implausible dialogue (including the line about "snow, snow and more snow", truly one of the more awful lines in Doctor Who's history. The UN characters walking around in National Dress are equally squirm-inducing.

With no strong guest characters, Hartnell's absence from episode three means that there is no one capable of carrying the story. Michael Craze's Ben gets to show a bit of initiative, but it's all rather pointless.

The Cybermen are also an oddity, portrayed in an almost surreal manner with silver body stockings, household bulbs and strange, lilting voices. The production team deserves credit for spotting their tremendous potential despite this obvious false start.

The regeneration scene at the end salvages the story which, like Mondas, had shriveled up and died a few minutes earlier. It is impossible to appreciate the effect the regeneration sequence must have had on its contemporary audience. Not the worst Hartnell story and probably not the worst "exit" story, but a surprisingly inauspicious precursor to a new era, and not a truly fitting end to the first.


A Review by Matt Michael 23/4/98

The Tenth Planet is one of those stories like Logopolis and The Deadly Assassin which are pronounced classics by virtue of the fact that they contain a momentous happening or revelation-- in this case, both the Doctor's first regeneration and the introduction of the Cybermen.

Taking this first, the regeneration is very well done, and adequately foreshadowed throughout the story as the first Doctor collapses from exhaustion. The actual changeover effect still stands up very well-- in fact it is most similar to the most recent regeneration (McCoy/McGann) in that it is unclear when the changeover occurs.

The rest of the story, however, is rather less impressive. The Cybermen are good in their first appearance, and are particularly horrific if you view them as animated corpses (since a friend pointed this out to me, I can't help but feel ill when I see them). In fact, their design is quite good, and their first appearance is quite superb. Unfortunately they are absent for much of the story, and so the threat they pose is never really adequately presented. Furthermore, I'm still not really sure what their plan is.

The acting is good to middling, with the General taking the prize for annoying American of 1966. The regulars all do their best, but to be brutally honest, the story really isn't that good.

Overall, The Tenth Planet is an average story assured its place in history only because of the Cybermen and the Doctor's regeneration. Hartnell doesn't really get a very good farewell either, as he is entirely absent from episode three (his final existing episode) and does very little in the others. 7/10 because of the excellent regeneration and some good scenes with the Cybermen. But if it was any other story, it'd only get a 6/10.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 14/12/98

On the face of it, The Tenth Planet can be seen as little more than a "base under siege story", but it does have a lot going for it besides this. As William Hartnell`s last regular story, The Doctor should`ve played a greater part in the proceedings; but due to illness, the part was minimalized. That said, however, he does have a good deal to do in the opening episode.

Anneke Wills as Polly is characterised strongly here, notably when she stands up to the Cybermen. Her relationship with The Doctor is also strong when compared to that with Ben. And although the two companions do spend some time seperated during the tale, Ben is also strongly characterised: his guilt at having to kill a Cyberman summarises this best. The characterisation of Cutler seems off: would a man in his position consider the safety of his son more important,than that of the planet? It seems unlikely he`d be a General if he were. Unfortunately, the setting doesn`t help matters. If the year was 1986 (the future from the point of view of those watching the original transmission), then there would surely be female staff at the base.

So to the Cybermen. Tall, imposing, with blank faces and lilting voices, and a legitimate reason for wanting the Earth--thus making them all the more believable for it. The Doctor`s regeneration is nicely underplayed throughout as he gradually becomes weaker. And through clever lighting it is actually both effective and surprising. With some nice direction and model work, The Tenth Planet largely works, although it isn`t the best end to the Hartnell era (with The Doctor too uninvolved), this is made memorable with the introduction of the Cybermen.


A Review by James Allenby 29/10/00

The story is fairly slow but I love it for many of the reasons that other people may also like it. Those reasons are the Cybermen and the regeneration. But onto other things. I managed to get a hold of a copy of The Tenth Planet when I was about 14 (which was 5 years ago) and a friend of mine settled down to watch it for the first time. I remember being very excited and watching this story back last night I can see why. It's best to watch it in the dark in my opinion and watch the entire thing. The story is fairly slow paced and one of the more notable things is that the Doctor hardly has anything to do in it. The script is mostly left to the supporting characters. I think this is quite good as it gives Ben and Polly the chance to lead, especially Ben. I can sense the tension from the astronauts when they are getting tired and they can't control the spaceship they are in. And there is something very scary about seeing a planet exactly like Earth appear from nowhere. Of course it late turns out to be Mondas. There's more slow moving action and then the Cybermen land. When I saw the scene outside the TARDIS in the snow with the Cybermen advancing upon that dreadful American bloke it sent chills up my spine. The costumes may look strange and badly put together but they are my favourite Cybermen because they look like the walking dead and the deadly giants that they should have been. Not like the boring metal robots from the 80's stories.

One thing I did notice that is different in these Cybermen compared to the others is that they have a completely different personality. Strangely there first thoughts aren't to kill everyone on Earth. In fact they even offer them the chance to go and live on Mondass with them, although they must become Cybermen. Also Ben seems to show some compassion towards the Cybermen. When he kills one of them he says "I'm sorry mate I had no other choice" and also something like "he gave me no alternative" and sounds as if he's almost crying. The impression I get of the Cybermen is that they are a race fighting to survive rather than the ruthless killers that they would eventually become. I was able to piece together episode four from the telesnaps, audio recording and also the cine clips that I managed to get hold of. It's very strange because you get the impression that it really is the end of the first Doctor. The line "it's far from being all over" is one of the most spooky lines I've ever heard William Hartnell say and I still can't explain why. Sometimes I wonder what was going through Bill's mind when he was filming that last episode. The regeneration scene is magical and eerie. I can only imagine what it would have been like for the viewers who had no idea of what was going on. The pulsing lights in the background add to the effect and I am pleased that the BBC decided to put this on the Missing Years tape although there are so many more clips from the cine footage that could have been put there as well. And so the end dawns a new era.

Yes I love The Tenth Planet. It may be a fairly average plot-line but what runs with it like the regeneration and the Cybermen make this a classic and I can't wait for the BBC release to replace my pirate copy.

8/10


A Review of the new Tenth Planet video by Ben Jordan 29/3/01

The Earth is threatened by the appearance of the Cybermen, who plan to drain all of its power, and even worse, convert every human into the same soul-less robots that they have become. The Doctor is on hand to help, but he suddenly seems more old and frail than he's ever been.

Having had a very poor quality copy of this story for about ten years, with a somewhat blurred and worn picture, and extremely muffled sound, it was not hard to be impressed by the greatly cleaned-up version we now have, courtesy of BBC Video, and more importantly the Restoration Team. They've long since established themselves as professionals in the art of rescuing and cleaning up the old stories for our enjoyment. But is it just me and my old vcr, or is the sound still a bit muffled?

The greatest joy of seeing this version of William Hartnell's swansong is that I can now see many things in the picture that were too hard to make out before. Probably the best example is Reg Whitehead's eyes, clearly visible through the empty eyesockets of his Cyberman suit. But do you know, it actually looks more scary that way! I know that these Cybermen are nothing short of cheap and basic, but I think I'd still be pretty scared if I were surrounded by a group of them. The early monochromatic ones were always the best in my opinion, and their cold, ruthless, and unemotional manner sends chills down my spine all over again. These are the Cybermen that Big Finish should bring back. You never hear one of them sounding happy and crying 'Excellent'!

William Hartnell seems to return to the early days of his character here, in the sense that he stands back and lets everyone else take charge of the situation, while occasionally trying to make people listen to his knowledge of the danger. This is quite a turnaround from the previous story The Smugglers, where he is far more the man in charge. And it's a shame that he's sick for part 3, since that hasty rewrite involving his sudden collapse shows badly. It seems that he didn't need to draw upon too much acting experience to play the ailing First Doctor. Robert Beatty is impressively cold and driven in his own way as General Cutler, yet the concern for his son up in space rescues his character from being merely black and white. The jerky movements of Whitehead and his fellows bring the robotic nature of the Cybermen to life, particularly with the way they simply hold their mouths open to speak. The electronic sing-song voices that accompany them are perfectly inhuman.

And of course there's Episode 4. The only other 'telesnap episodes' I've seen are The Ice Warriors 2 and 3, and I found them frankly a little slow. Tenth Planet part 4 is a completely different story, and it's probably got something to do with the short video clips interspersed throughout, culminating in the regeneration scene. We've all seen that before, but here it is, with the credits rolling immediately afterwards, just the way we were always meant to see it. Maybe my much greater enjoyment of part 4 is also due to its fast pace and gripping finale - even if I already knew exactly what was going to happen. Hats off to everyone involved in reconstructing this episode.

Watching the Hartnell stories as a kid, I always tended to find them slow and dull, which exemplifies how much faster television is nowadays, and children's expectations of it. Now however, I've re-watched several of them, and have been delighted to find myself engaged in them, finally appreciating the first chapter of the Doctor Who saga as I should. And with The Tenth Planet bringing the Hartnell years to a close, I'm pleased to say that it does it in style. And it's never looked better - well, except maybe for that time in 1966 when people actually got to see the whole thing. And I can only wonder at what it must have been like to see the Doctor regenerate when it was the last thing one could possibly have expected!


Doctor Who and the Lamp Heads by Greg Cook 11/6/01

One of the most memorable moments in Tomb of the Cybermen comes when the Doctor comforts Victoria by talking about his family. Troughton plays the scene beautifully-both affectionate and sad at the same time. This speech stands in stark contrast with the cold, unfeeling Cybermen and emphasizes why our human emotions (fear and regret among them) make us better and stronger than the metal creatures who insist "You will be like us."

The best Doctor Who episodes (such as Genesis of the Daleks, Inferno, and Castrovalva) create characters who are multidimensional and worth saving: their humanity makes the villains seems even more evil by contrast. The Tomb of the Cybermen has its share of cookie cutter spacemen, but at least the Doctor and friends remind us of humanity's virtues.

Sadly, however, the first Cyberman adventure lacks this important human factor. The base crew are as colorless as the adversaries from Mondas: only one base member has a hobby (he collects photos of women in bikinis) and only one has a passion (he wants to protect his son even it means the destruction of half the Earth). The Doctor's companions have little to do: Ben gets thumped over the head a few times, and Polly makes coffee. And the Doctor spends most the story unconscious. The result is a rather boring four episodes. Davis and Pedler try to enliven things by raising the stakes: Mondas is draining the Earth's power, Cybermen are invading the entire planet, and Cutler wants to use a nuclear weapon.

Unfortunately these attempts at action only dilute the story. Doctor Who works well when it focuses on suspense, atmosphere, characterization, and moral dilemmas; but when the scriptwriters move into action/adventure territory, look out for the ventilator shafts and guarded corridors. The scale of The Tenth Planet is simply too big for a 1960's BBC children's serial. As a result, the production plays like Flash Gordon on Prozac, without even a Merciless Ming for laughs.

The misguided action detracts from what should be the real point of the adventure: our human frailties and weaknesses are better than Cyber-strength. However, the only glimpses at those frailties are the Doctor's illness and Cutler's irrational devotion to his son; neither makes a convincing case for humanity. Where are our displays of love, honor, self-sacrifice? At least in Earthshock, we had Adric giving his life for a noble cause, showing that even a twerp is better than the most "Excellent" Cyberleader.

Hartnell's era had its share of thoughtful, well-characterized historical tales and imaginative, allegorical space fantasies. However, this early attempt at hard science fiction has the virtues of neither. Like a Troughton story without the humor or claustrophobic horror, The Tenth Planet is a disappointing close for the most mysterious and fallible of the Doctors.


Cruel In-Tenth-ions by Andrew Wixon 28/9/01

Well, here we are at the end of William Hartnell's tenure as the Doctor already, and his swan song is one of those stories so closely clustered about with folklore that to actually watch the three-and-a-bit episodes is an odd experience. The Tenth Planet is a Famous Story - Famous for Troughton's debut, Famous for the Cybermen's debut also. The merits (or otherwise) of the tale itself are easily overlooked.

From the start, it's clear that this is a much more polished and confident series than the one that began almost three years earlier. For the most part, the production values are solid without being spectacular, the story's designed to be economic (just look how much of it occurs in the Tracking Room - this'd be an ideal place to start if you were overcome with the urge to adapt TV DW for the stage). The polar surface set is extremely good, too. However, the high quality doesn't extend much past the sets. Kitt Pedler - Kit Pedlar - I'm sorry, Kit Pedler's script has three great SF ideas to play with - Mondas' assault on Earth, the bionic nightmare of the Cybermen, and the extraordinary concept of the Doctor's renewal - and still manages to be uninvolving most of the way through. The build-up in episode one is fine, but from then on it's basically the Cybermen repeatedly trying to take over the base and repeatedly being kicked out until the four episodes are up and Mondas melts. Events don't flow naturally from each other, they just feel imposed in order to create drama. Cutler's fanatical determination to blow up Mondas in episode three just doesn't ring true. There are many unanswered questions that just hint at sloppy writing - why do the Cybermen invade a tiny polar base ahead of everywhere else? Why is Polly the only dolly-bird in history able to recognise the coastline of Malaysia (I'm damned if I can, not that I'm a dolly-bird, of course)? How come the Doctor's heard of Mondas and its' inhabitants (perhaps the first instance of the Doctor's omniscience being used to paper over cracks in the script)? Who told him about Cutler's plan - he faints before Cutler embarks upon it but is entirely aware of it when he recovers an episode later.

The guest performances veer wildly between over-the-top caricatures and two-dimensional cyphers. Michael Craze and Anneke Wills turn in solid and affecting performances, though, with Ben's remorse after shooting the Cyberman in episode two unexpected and welcome - a far cry from the cheerful 'blow 'em away' attitude later adopted by UNIT and Ace.

And so to the reasons the story is remembered. First off, the Cybermen - I think it's best to describe them as a triumph of concept over execution, because production-wise they're by far the ropiest thing in the story. Their headpieces are visibly sellotaped on, the dubbing is about as well-synched as your average Godzilla movie, and their voices are just weird. And yet... there's something there, something about the cloth faces with eyes still glinting in the sockets... Something that isn't present in any of their other more robotic incarnations. (It's ironic, that in a story evidently influenced by Dr No on a number of levels (the reactor, the ventilator duct), the villains should all have mechanical bodies but organic hands.)

William Hartnell doesn't get the departure he deserves. He appears shockingly little throughout the story and not at all in episode three - clearly a sign that Hartnell's time was running out. He gets a few good confrontations with Cutler and the Cybermen, but that's about it. But the regeneration sequence... We're all rather blase about regenerations, certainly I've never been particularly startled by one since 1981, but watching this one, having watched every other Hartnell story in my collection over the past few weeks... I got an inkling of what it must have been like to suddenly see the one-and-only Doctor dissolve and reform before my unsuspecting eyes. And I felt a strange sense of sadness. Watching the Hartnell stories in context has vastly increased my respect and affection for this era of the series. I was sorry to see it end.


Slow and simple by Tim Roll-Pickering 15/11/01

Episode 4 based on the BBC Video reconstruction.

This is an exceptionally difficult story to assess. On the one hand it presents a whole new situation for the series which would be explored heavily in the next few years, namely the 'base under siege' storyline but on the other hand it comes across as weak and gives the regulars very little to actually do. The missing Episode 4 is considered the most missed Doctor Who episode of all, but it's clear that this is because of its historical significance rather than artistic merit.

The main problem is the lack of action involving the regulars. Hartnell is unfortunately absent from the third episode (and now the last one from his era to exist) but even in the other episodes he doesn't stand out particularly well. The only one of the guest cast to make any impact at all is Robert Beatty, who ensures that General Cutler dominates all the scenes he is in. Otherwise the crew of the Snowcap Base are pretty faceless and make little impact. Polly also suffers from being given little more to do than make coffee and get taken hostage. Ben at least shows initiative in tackling a Cyberman and his sorrow when he's forced to kill it. The story also takes the viewer (but none of the regulars) to Switzerland in an attempt to convey the international scale of matters, but Wigner is no more memorable than any of the other characters in the story.

The Cybermen make their debut and it's an extremely restricted one, with the cyborgs only appearing substantially in Episodes 2 & 4. Their design is bizarre and it's difficult to accept them as being an improvement on the human form. Their voices are a good idea but come across as far too high pitched in places to give them menace. Still they make a highly memorable impact and it's easy to see why they made a rapid return.

The resolution of the story is so simple - all the humans have to do is prevent anything from happening and Mondas disintegrates by itself. The story is heavily repetitive with the Snowcap Base being stormed twice and this results in a plodding tale that would be retold several times with improvements. This is by no means the great classic that fans are hoping to see completed. 5/10

It would be completely unfair to compare a profession reconstruction, which has access to the source material and numerous graphic editing equipment, with a fan reconstruction produced with far simpler resources. The reconstruction of Episode 4 is good and uses a mixture of telesnaps, screen grabs, the surviving footage and some composite pictures. The use of effects such as a flickering monitor screen or smoke over the picture helps to enhance the picture, as do the use of zooms and twists to bring motion to the pictures. This shows how brilliant a reconstruction can be given the right resources and I hope that this one will be followed by other full reconstructions. 10/10


A poor end to a great Doctor by David Barnes 4/7/02

Having got this video in the Cyberman Boxet last year, I was looking forward to this story. I knew Attack of the Cybermen was a good couple of episodes (no, seriously, it's my favourite Colin Baker adventure!) but I had only seen some poor quality clips of this story (from Destiny of the Doctors and Cybermen: The Early Years). So what was I to make of the Cybermens debut and Hartnells' exit?

Well, as you can see by the title of this review, I didn't like it much. The whole story is just very slow and dull. Let's get the characters out of the way first.

The Doctor was almost totally absent or ineffectual. He had some nice lines in episode 1 ("Can you speak louder? I'm deaf! Huh...") but he doesn't do anything! He stands in the background of episodes 1 and 2, occasionaly trying (and failing) to get people to listen to him (although he does get some good scenes with the Cybermen), he faints at the beginning of episode 3 and is absent until 5 minutes into episode 4, where he gets annoyed, gets taken to the Cybermen spaceship, faints, talks to Polly, faints, mumbles a bit, goes to the TARDIS and faints. Other Doctors have the spotlight in their swansongs, but Hartnell doesn't. It's such a shame as he is my second favourite Doctor.

Anneke Wills as Polly was good, though nothing really special. Ben gets some good scenes and has stuff to do (trying to sabotage the bomb, obtaining Cybermen weaponry, defeating the Cybermen at the end of the story) and is the person who drives the plot due to Hartnell's absense (due to ill health).

The people in Snowcap base are all a dull bunch, with only Robert Beatty and David Dodimead leaving any impression. The former, playing Cutler, puts in a good performance of someone who may lose his son (although his emotions overcome his reasoning) and the latter, playing scientist Barclay, is very good at playing a worried man, determined to save his planet, even resorting to disobeying his leader.

The Cybermen themselves are very good. They are a bit cumbersome and their voices are very amusing (which defeats the object of being menacing) but they do come across as totally unemotional (something thrown out the window from Revenge of the Cybermen onwards). They are also very reasonable, letting the scientists talk to the astronauts for example, and were certainly worthy of return appearances.

The story itself is very dull. Nothing really happens in episode 1, the story following the boring plight of some astronauts. The Cybermen appear at the end of episode 1 and take over the base in episode 2. There are some good confrontation scenes but the story settles down to be dull again once the Cybermen are killed. Part 3 is all about the sabotaging of a bomb that Cutler wants to use on the planet Mondas, the Cybermen's home. Then part 4 (representated by a photo reconstruction with the soundtrack on the video) happens to be quite exciting with the Cybermen taking over the world.

The end is the best bit, where the first Doctor collapses in the TARDIS (but the reason for it is a bit bare; he is just tired through the rest of the story and I always put his need to regenerate down to mental and physical exhaustion).

Overall, this story is very dull, with only the Cybermen and the regeneration managing to lift it to anything at all. 4/10


Some Assembly Required by David Massingham 18/3/04

My attitude to the Cybermen has changed of late. For years I had heard reports that the eighties Cybermen were but a shadow of their former selves, too emotional and booming compared to the flickering versions that were glimpsed in the sixties. I knew nothing of this -- the only sixties Cybermen story I had seen was Tomb of the Cybermen, and even that I hadn't seen for yonks. Then in the past month I have been privy to two early Cyb adventures; a re-visitation to Tomb, and this little ditty, The Tenth Planet. And, so help me, I'm beginning to see what some of those other fans are going on about.

Hey, I still love David Banks' irrepressible CyberLeader. I like the booming voices, I love the schmick eighties costumes (apart from those silly boots in Earthshock). But early Cybermen have two things that their latter-day brothers didn't -- damn creepy voices, and the feeling that they are really animated corpses, as another reviewer here at the Guide infers. The voices in Tomb are fantastic, but unfortunately a bit hard to understand. The original Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet, got it just right. Likewise, the stockinged face of these original Mondasians are more successful at conjuring up images of the living dead than in the season five entry. The Tenth Planet's Cybies can look a bit cheap at times, but I quite like them -- the lamps and the pipes make it look like these are early, "primitive" models of what would later become one of the terrors of the universe.

Unfortunately, the final installment for the First Doctor fails to take full advantage of these silver giants. The really only appear in two of the four episodes, and although there are some worthwhile subplots, there are also a lot of bland and boring characters dragging the side down. Compound this with William Hartnell's absence in part three and some rather unimaginative plotting, and The Tenth Planet ends up as a rather average tale with some exciting sections along the way.

The first episode, quite frankly, is pretty dull. The Hartnell years are often accused of boring their audience, and whether or not that is the case is another matter -- but here the rumours are true. We have to contend with some horrible (not to mention long) scenes aboard Zeus Four, the rocket ship harbouring two c-grade actors. One of them, "Bluey" (guess what? He's Australian!), strays too close to the Island of Melodrama, whilst the American (Gynn, I think his name was) seems to falling asleep in his seat. AND THE EDITOR JUST WON'T CUT TO ANOTHER SCENE!!! Oh, the humanity! Perhaps the intention was that these scenes come across as tense, but if so the production team failed. Maybe if the actors elicited any sympathy whatsoever, maybe then these scenes may contain tension. Perhaps if the dialogue weren't so stale, maybe then I wouldn't be fighting off sleep. Anyway, you get the point. The scenes in Snowcap itself are marginally better, with Cutler coming across as a mesmerising enough figure (despite having some cliched and one-note material to work with), whilst Barclay eventually delineates himself as slightly more interesting than the rest of the cast. Don't get me started on Wigner, that oaf at the UN. So really, it was up to Cutler, the Cybermen (whom the audience couldn't possibly identify with), and the TARDIS crew to carry this story.

On the latter front, the story is generally successful. As I said before, it is a great shame that William Hartnell couldn't have had more screen time in his final adventure, but what he does give us is classic First Doctor. His indignation when confronting both Cutler and the Cybermen is glorious to behold, with that wonderful line "Emotions. Love. Pride. Hate. Fear. Have you no emotions, sir?" standing out. As the adventure goes on, the viewer really gets an ominous feeling... the Doctor isn't quite right, he's more weary and frail than he has been. When it inevitably occurs, the regeneration is really something magical; I cannot imagine the confusion and excitement that would have spread through households in 1966. The fact that the production team decided to cut straight to the credit sequence without even allowing the new Doctor a single word to help establish himself there and then was ballsy, forcing curious viewers to tune in next week.

Ben and Polly both give fine performances here, although both have some difficult material to work with. Polly doesn't really do anything at all, besides convincing Barclay to help them deactivate the Z-bomb, whilst Michael Craze has to contend with some terrible dialogue... and, irritatingly, insists on referring to all the Cybermen as "geezers". However, most of the more exciting sequences feature Ben battling the Cybes or trying to defeat Cutler, so the character comes off well in this adventure. What is interesting about the character of Ben is that he is based almost completely on stereotype (like later companion Ace), has little development yet still comes across as enjoyable without becoming a "niche" companion. Someone once likened Ace to a historical companion a la Jamie -- she had all the generalised mannerisms one may believe were inherent in an 1980s teen, but on a very archetypal level. I'd put forward a similar argument for Ben; although Ace benefited from a fair amount of individual development in her stories, which helped make her more palatable for some viewers, Ben manages to please most audiences without this advantage. I find that interesting, because I see the basic outline for Ben even more stereotypical than Ace's.

Slightly off topic, that. So, to recap -- The Tenth Planet is a sometimes exciting, sometimes dull attempt at adventure Who. One unfortunate feeling one gets watching this story is that it really is one episode too long... is there a fan edited version out there which knocks out, oh, I dunno, thirty minutes? The popular opinion that it is the regeneration and the Cybermen that make this worthwhile is pretty much on the money. There are other things to like here, to be sure, but it is the bizarrely pitched Cyber voices that I'll always remember...

6.5 out of 10


Sadly frustrating and overrated by Konstantin Hubert 2/9/04

The fear of inhabitants of alien worlds invading or spying on Earth has been troubling human mind since the dawn of civilisation and inevitably this concept of alien presence, usually hostile, on our planet has heated up man's imagination countless of times. Doctor Who, a limitless programme, unique mixture of Earth-bound stories and stories unfolding beyond Earth's exosphere, has tackled this concept and Tenth Planet is one of its examples, a mythical but overrated one. The plot and quality of the first Doctor's final adventure unfortunately don't live up to its high status in the series' history, which is due to two well-known reasons: the Time Lord for the first time dies and regenerates and the other reason concerns the debut of the Cybermen. I am absolutely convinced that if not favoured by those two features, if the invaders were ephemeral villains and didn't attain the prestigious status of archenemies and if the Doctor remained alive at the story's end, Tenth Planet would not have been highly regarded. It promises so much and yet yields an overall poor result, leaving the viewer the bitter impression of an incomplete and abruptly ending story, conscious of its imperfections. It is a pity it closed the first cycle of seasons lackadaisically and that William Hartnell bade farewell to his legend ingloriously and dishonourably.

Although frustrating and sluggish, Tenth Planet starts off decently: its thought-provoking title, the opening scene in which a space rocket is launched, the icy landscape of Antarctica, its merciless blizzard, the remote military/scientific International base and its bossy, quarrelsome General Cutler weave a great, gripping atmosphere. The first two parts are without doubt proper and in their superiority they form a striking antithesis to the poor and disappointing second half. The concept of the natives of an unknown, undiscovered planet of the solar system invading and terrorising Earth is exciting albeit banal, because in fact it is just another alien invasion, a concept used in several movies produced before Tenth Planet, including Invasion from Mars and War of the Worlds. In the face of this attack the Doctor and humanity are challenged in the year 1986 to protect the life-giving island called Earth and thus preserve life on this isolated biosphere of the universe.

Since the first episode the home planet of the Cybermen Mondas (its appelation is most probably modeled on the Latin "Mundus", world) is shown. Like other stories of the series, Tenth Planet assumes global proportions, manifested during the first two parts by the ISC Geneva scenes and the international news report announcing the shocking arrival of a new planet. It is a tale of a very critical conflict between two twin planets and its strongest aspects lie in the sword of Damocles hanging over Earth, that is, the menace of Mondas and in the new villains, the Cybermen, which I will review later. Mondas is so identical to Earth, in size and in morphology, that its land masses, though upside down, are easily recognized. Polly for example recognises a region, the shape of which is identical to Malaysia, while Ben and Barclay identify the "South America" and "Africa" of this new world respectively. We never learn how the Cybermen managed to convert their planet into a giant spaceship and how it crossed billions of miles to approach Earth. Despite that very far-fetched and pointless similarity to Earth and few rather boring scenes featuring the astronauts in the space rocket, the first part and especially the second part are watchable, intriguing.

When one first watches Tenth Planet one usually focuses one's attention on the newcomers Cybermen and the departing first Doctor: the silver archenemies fascinate and since their debut justify their special status among the series' villains but the latter disappoints. Kit Pedler's conception of the Cybermen was brilliant and by Doctor Who standards sophisticated. Once they were humans, who grew weak and for their survival abjured their human nature transforming themselves into mutants. They were deprived of emotions, while limbs and some organs were slowly replaced with cybernetic attachments. They are indeed Cybermen, humanoid creatures subject to the laws of cybernetics. It is no wonder that of all the aliens the first Doctor encountered, only these rivaled the hugely popular Daleks and moderated the Dalekmania.

As emotionless as the Daleks but more chilling and competent, the Cybermen succeeded in becoming the humanoid counterparts of Skaro's creatures which the programme truly needed. In no other story is their robot/human nature depicted so clearly as it is depicted in Tenth Planet. With their white as if with caoutchouk covered faces and those large spherical coal-black eyes they look more grotesque and aggressive than the following generations of their species. Their face evokes the appearance of a human skull and unlike their successors they preserve a nose and when they talk, their human mouth contracts. Those of Mondas maintaining more human features represent most probably the first stage of the Cybermen and are to the other Cybermen what homo erectus (or homo sapiens neandertalensis) is to the homo sapiens species.

Determined, selfish and callous, they don't take into account the tragic consequences of their actions and only aim at rescuing their own race even if that entails the extemination of other species. Their most memorable scenes are found in part 2 when they invade the base revealing their identity and the reasons of their hostile arrival. In this episode they become the stars and it is frustrating that their great performance doesn't recur but on the contrary that they decline afterwards: in part 3 they are inexplicably absent, while in the final part only when they come back to the base and kill Cutler they show liveliness and a dark desire to prevail. Despite their dying state and small participation as well as their easy and lackadaisical defeat, their domination in part 2 , their eerie cyborg appearance and the well conceived history of their origins suffice to make them haunting.

The departing Doctor on the other hand is an undoubtable fiasco. While everyone would expect him to be the show-stealer, he is overlooked, marginalised (this was partially due to the fact that Hartnell fell ill of course) and as a result other characters, Ben and General Cutler (played very well by Robert Beatty), have the most important and sensible participation usurping from the parting hero the title of protagonist. In episode 3 he is seen for only 3-4 seconds while fainting and in episode 1 his only useful contribution occurs when he warns the others of the dreadful threat by revealing that he knows what this twin planet is and that he expects visitors from it to arrive on Earth soon. We witness in part 2 the first confrontation between the silver archenemies and the Time Lord, who takes up the reins for a while: his outburst and courage to stand up to the imposing cyborgs and his desperate effort to persuade them to prevent the imminent war and peacefully coexist with the humans, these are our last nice memories of Hartnell's Doctor. In the last episode if not for the second round of negotiations with the Cybermen he would have been again a stooge and even those negotiations seem useless, a waste of time for 2 reasons: the Cybermen are eliminated a few minutes later as soon as Mondas melts and disintegrates and less important the Doctor is not the Delegate of mankind (with his final moments and his regeneration I will be concerned in a subsequent paragraph of this review). Overall, Hartnell was doomed to be frustrating in Tenth Planet and unfortunately he doesn't deserve applauses and even the most open-minded and indulgent fans should admit the production team's mistakes and indifference that spoilt his swan song.

The serial looks as if its two writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis had exhausted all their imagination while crafting the new villains and making up the atmosphere, lacks inspiration. Pedler and Davis tried to impress through a tale affecting the whole world with the tiny area of the South Pole station as central battlefield but failed, one reason being the programme's low-budget, in accommodating its huge proportions to action scenes of similar proportions. Though a four-parter, Tenth Planet is padded.

It features instants, the first side of which thrills the viewer but their outcome, the other side, reveals they are hoaxes. Those instants are interrupted and one feels as if one has been fooled. Major frustrating moments will be mentioned. In the cliffhanger of Part 2 a fleet of Cyberships is heading toward Earth, hundreds of them while a panic-struck radar technician cries out "spaceships in formation". No aerial battle between the Cybermen and the humans ensues, the arrival of this fleet plays a role in the development of the story but it isn't manifested properly. A very brief battle does occur but it isn't enough to make up for the dullness of episode 3, which functions as a silent, sluggish interlude between the invasion (2nd part) and the defeat (final part). When we are informed that the Cybermen have spread all over the world, unnaturally fast as if there was no resistance from the humans, the conquest of Earth is symbolised poorly by the scene where a Cyberman has intruded in the ISC Geneva center. Therefore, Tenth Planet, though of global proportions, isn't visually as rich as it ought to be and in fact is rather poor.

The cliffhanger to part 3 is frustrating too. Cutler decides to destroy Mondas by launching the ultra-powerful Z-bomb, a bomb which will have very grave radiation effects on Earth if it strikes Mondas. At the beginning of part 4 the engines stop however, because Ben has managed to sabotage the systems and as a result the rocket never takes off. The entire third episode revolves around a disputatious dilemma and was wasted on an imminent event that eventually never happens... The title of William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing is indicative of this cliffhanger's outcome, too much noise for nothing indeed. It would have been much more reasonable and suspenseful if the rocket, not necessarily an ultra-powerful one and not one liable to cause radiation effects, were launched and if instead of a critical disagreement over the launching of the bomb that divided the Station's staff in two opposing sides and made Cutler look like the villain, occured a battle between the humans, who struggle to launch the rocket to Mondas (or to a giant Cybership), and the Cybermen, who of course do their best to prevent its launching. Besides, how did Ben, a Cockney sailor, know how to sabotage the systems of an enormous powerful bomb?

For the inevitable tragedy, the Cybermen themselves are to be blamed: why did Mondas start draining Earth's resources only 70-80 minutes before its complete disintegration? The Cybermen, who knew of course Earth's position in the solar system and their planet's exact amount of remaining resources, ought to begin their attack and looting at least a few days before Mondas' destruction on account of exhaustion of its resources and not in the nick of time for obvious reasons. It is a tragic irony they are eliminated after having submitted the humans and conquered their world; their irresponsibility explains however their defeat. The expressions "Much Ado About Nothing" and "too much noise for nothing" spring once again to my mind since they epitomise the outcome of the Cybermen's campaign and the tale's denouement.

In Episode 4 the Cybermen use Polly and the Time Lord as hostages and imprison them inside a Cybership. Whoever would expect at last thrilling and suspenseful action moments to burst, would just feel an urge to either boo the production team or complain anyhow when one simply sees Ben entering the ship, of course after the Cybermen's very sudden and poor waterloo, and untying his two friends. Tenth Planet is devoid of the action that makes a story exciting and captivating. Ben doesn't actually rescue them and the two captives don't rescue themselves either and yet they survive. All survive but in the end the Time Lord passes away and he does so, indignantly and erroneously. The farewell and regeneration scenes, which thereupon follow, are inadmissible: once freed, the Doctor leaves the spaceship to return to the TARDIS suddenly and mysteriously without giving any explanations. In his final moments he doesn't behave like a normal and sympathising hero; on the contrary he abandons Polly and Ben and isolates himself in the TARDIS leaving both companions outside to freeze to death in the lethal and pitiless frost of Antarctica and opens the door of his time machine to let them enter only after repetitive pounds on the door and shouts. And thereupon an enigmatic force (a disease?) as invisible as his contribution in his last adventure overwhelms him and when he collapses on the floor, having no time to address a final speech, however brief, to the companions (and the viewers too), he regenarates wearing the body of his second person. Terrible final scenes, which literally sully the first Doctor's personality. Instead of departing with us as a true hero, as one who has fought and triumphed anyhow and to any degree in his struggle for the salvation of an entire race, he is presented as bad-tempered, exhausted, distant and self-absorbed. Although marking an historical instant, a turning point, the finale doesn't move at all nor commemorate anyhow the cycle of the Doctor.

The fact that the humans eventually triumph while they seem to have barely achieved something for the salvation of their planet is a ridiculous observation because it grants Tenth Planet the impression of an accident, an unfortutane incident. Tenth Planet's situation could be compared to a hunger-strike or a hi-jack, in which agitators cause perturbation and there is a group of witnesses that sometimes either tries to calm the agitators or watches this perturbation submissively obeying the agitators' demands. In the case of Tenth Planet, the Cybermen are the pitiful victims as well as the agitators, extortioners, who turn upside down an entire planet, while the humans the witnesses indeed. What does the Doctor achieve in his effort to save Earth or protect his two companions and others from the Cybermen? Nothing. What do Ben and Polly achieve in their effort to save Earth from the Cybermen? Nothing. What do the staff (scientists et al) at the South Pole Tracking Station and the Earthmen in general achieve in their effort to save their planet from the Cybermen? Nothing (both Ben, hero of this serial, and other humans at the Station show opposition and resistance but their defensive/offensive actions being of a small scale and of a personal benefit don't hinder all Cybermen's major plan to save Mondas at the expense of Earth). What do we see when we see Tenth Planet? An overrated and frustrating tale, which if not credited with the debut of the silver archenemies and more importantly with the first regeneration in the history of the British institution called Doctor Who, it would have been grouped with the series' mediocre productions. The Earthmen and the TARDIS crew experienced the "accident" mainly as witnesses and yet to them belongs the victory, they have the right to solemnize because, although their victory doesn't deserve the title of a deed, Earth was spared.

To conclude, Tenth Planet is another serial of contrasts: its second episode is perhaps a classic flanked with two negative, disappointing episodes and a somewhat nice first episode. It left me with a bitter feeling intensified by my fondness of the Cybermen, whom I first met in Tomb of the Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen, Earthshock, certainly more pleasant and thrilling stories, and of William Hartnell, the legend of whom it brought an end to indolently and rather dryly.


Quite good! by Matthew Newland 9/2/05

Though one of the most important adventures in the entire history of Doctor Who, The Tenth Planet doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of a 'classic' story. And I admit... it's no Caves of Androzani (but what other regeneration story is?), but it's tremendously entertaining and I had a fine time watching it. In fact, I ended up viewing all four episodes in one sitting... I didn't want to stop!

The story is a good one, though it was rather disappointing to see so little of the Doctor. In fact, that's the real reason why this misses that one final star from me... I loved Hartnell's portrayal of the grouchy old eccentric time traveller and I wasn't happy at all to learn that we'd have to sit through one whole episode (part three for those of you who didn't know) seeing nothing of him but a couple brief scenes of him asleep in a bed! I know, Mr. Hartnell was ill at the time, so it couldn't be helped... It's just that knowing that doesn't take away my disappointment.

Still, it's not a total loss... episode three focuses quite a bit on the Doctor's young companion, Ben, and I ended up liking him quite a lot. Polly too... a very pretty girl, very sweet. I'd never seen either of them before, as the first six years of Doctor Who are sort of my `final frontier' as far as viewing goes (while I remain very familiar, for the most part, with the 1970-1989 years).

Even though I know many have mocked them for their appearance, I found the Cybermen to be very very creepy, not silly at all. From the bandages that seem to hold their heads together, to the bare fingers of their hands (if this story were in colour, what would those fingers look like? Would they be flesh coloured, or blue from lack of circulation? Just how alive are the flesh parts of the Cybermen? I`m under the impression that the Cybermen, at least here in their earliest incarnations, were basically cadavers animated with mechanical parts). The thing that will always get me, though, was the way they spoke... I mean, the head Cyberman drops open his mouth, holds it open, and words come out of it till he shuts it again **shudder**.

The fourth episode of this four-part adventure, sadly, no longer exists, as it's one of the many `lost episodes' of the early seasons of Doctor Who. In its place, the kind folks at the BBC have provided us with the complete soundtrack of the episode (all dialogue, music, and special effects), and have supplemented this visually with surviving still photographs taken from the episode. It's not the same, but it works... I wasn't distracted by the change, and after a little while I was so into the story that I hardly noticed it.

I'll finish up by saying that The Tenth Planet is a highly enjoyable adventure with the Doctor (well, a highly enjoyable adventure with the Doctor's companions), and definitely worth a look. It's one of the very best Cyberman stories, in my opinion sharing the top spot in that category with the Sixth Doctor adventure, 1985`s Attack of the Cybermen, which I'd recommend you buy together with this story, if of course you've got the cash.


A Review by Brian May 30/1/08

The usual analysis of The Tenth Planet runs roughly along these lines. Its iconic standing in Doctor Who history has been cemented by three main factors: the first change of lead actor, the debut of the Cybermen, and the Holy Grail-like elusiveness of the missing fourth episode. Otherwise it's just another boring base under siege runaround that's more important than it should be.

I agree to an extent. This could have been any story. Like the Daleks before them, a new monster appears and makes a good enough impression to guarantee them a return. It could have ended with the Doctor defeating them and leaving in the TARDIS, none the worse for wear. Similarly, he could have changed into another body at the end of The Smugglers or The War Machines, mortally wounded by a vengeful Captain Pike, or valiantly going down against WOTAN. Or even in the next story, The Power of the Daleks. Imagine that! The Daleks killing off the first Doctor would have been quite amazing.

But what about The Tenth Planet judged on its own merits? Well, it's quite enjoyable. The opening scenes have a wonderful B-movie feel, the sort that always gets repeated on Saturday-afternoon TV. The use of stock footage, in this case rocket launches and snow-covered landscapes, accompanied by chees- yet-appropriate stock music, all promise a likeable, time-passing and undemanding yarn. It feels cold, as is the intention, and there's the added plus - here and through the rest of the story - of simple but effective design combined with excellent direction. Derek Martinus certainly knows how to helm a Doctor Who story, and we get two fantastic cliffhangers: episode one is unforgettably iconic (that word again!), while the panning over worried faces at episode three's climax is superbly shot.

For those of us who first watched this after viewing later Cybermen stories, it's certainly an unusual experience. They're a long way from the flashy silver creatures of later episodes, not in their fundamental design but in their mannerisms. The sing-song voices are the most attention catching difference, but they're very freakish and it's odd hearing them say things like "Take him out and look after him" and "If you wish to contact them I have no objections". How courteous! Their white cloth outfits are rather good, the visible human forearms the first reminder they used to be like us. Overall, they make an impressive start, despite only appearing in two episodes, and while we see one of their convenient story-by-story weaknesses - in this case radiation - some leeway can be allowed as it's the first instance of this.

Robert Beatty as Cutler is the obvious "guest star". Granted, he's very good, but my favourite non-regular is David Dodimead as Barclay, in a performance and character that are both brilliantly understated. He's one of the most normal, everyday individuals we could meet in a Who scenario. Give or take the odd dodgy accent and appalling national stereotype, the rest are passable. Michael Craze and Anneke Wills continue their impressive run as Ben and Polly, although they're both a bit muted in the first two episodes. Unlike the previous story, The Smugglers, they're not separated from the Doctor early on and are thus denied the opportunity to dominate segments of the narrative. They only come into their own during episode three, in the Doctor's absence. The suggestion William Hartnell left Doctor Who due to ill health has since been debunked as another of the programme's myths, and it's evident in his performance. It's as strong as ever; it may as well have been his first story, and the only reason he doesn't do much is because that's all the script has allowed for him.

There's not much to the plot. As I said, it's an acceptable enough B-movie; it looks good, trots along at a nice pace and ends on a massive deus ex machina - Mondas explodes and the Cybermen die - but in all fairness we're told this would happen earlier. This allows us to excuse the sidetracking nature of the third episode: Cutler's actions will prevent Mondas's destruction, so he's got to be stopped. While the racial mix and implied harmony should be commended, the sexual equality is highly questionable. To paraphrase The Discontinuity Guide, Polly makes the coffee and the only other female part is a secretary (and forget the "technician" euphemism in the credits - she's a secretary!).

There are other embarrassing moments. Returning to the topic of national stereotypes, Tito the Italian is pure cringe, singing La Donna e Mobile and saying "Mamma mia, belissima!" when he sights Polly. What if it had been Schultz, the Australian, in his place? Would he be singing Waltzing Matilda and bleating "Crikey! Get a load of that sheila!"? Polly identifying Malaysia on the globe of Mondas is rather naff, as it's such a tiny landmass. At least South America is more identifiable.

Now we come to the fourth episode - that elusive, missing piece of the jigsaw. According to some, the most sought after absent Doctor Who episode. Why on earth is this the case? It can stay lost, for all I care. It's the most boring instalment, the base under siege and runaround cliches only coming into effect here. The lack of Doctor and Cybermen in the third episode is probably another reason it's missed more than it ought to be (and indeed it is rather sad the last extant episode with Hartnell should be the second). But at least we have several off-air clips of the dying Doctor and the full one of his change - and if we didn't have these I'd be among the first one clamouring for its recovery! But as it stands, we have three-quarters of the story, with telesnaps of the fourth and, since the VHS release, an excellent reconstruction. I'd rather have one episode of Marco Polo, or The Massacre, or The Power of the Daleks, or The Macra Terror in its place. Or even another episode of The Evil of the Daleks or The Web of Fear. Or many others.

The Tenth Planet is a decent yet imperfect little adventure, more satisfying in terms of atmosphere than actual plot. It's been thrust into major "turning point" and "iconic" spotlights that could have happened to any other story at the time. After taking everything into account it's nice, harmless fun. 7/10


A "Legendary" End To The Hartnell Era? by Matthew Kresal 12/4/09

(Note: Review is based on the 2001 BBC VHS release)

Watching The Tenth Planet some four plus decades after its original broadcast makes for some interesting viewing for any Doctor Who fan. This is for two reasons: the first because of its legendary status it has in Doctor Who fandom, because it contains two of the elements of the show's longevity: the Cybermen and the Doctor's ability to regenerate. The other is reason is to view it from the production values of the time and its realization of those two items of interests to fans. In fact, it's those values that make this an interesting story to view. So how does The Tenth Planet actually rank so to speak?

Well this was of course William Hartnell's final Doctor Who story and judging from this story's three surviving episodes (and episode four's reconstruction on the VHS release) his time had come. Whether it was by design in the script or the fact that Hartnell was ailing, the first Doctor does very little in his final story. In fact the first Doctor's final story consists almost entirely of him being either a captive or (as in the case of episode three) being unconscious. It's a shame really, considering that Hartnell shows that even in his final story he is still capable of bringing authority to his Doctor with the emotions speech to the Cybermen in episode two. As I said, it is a shame that the first Doctor can only react to the events around him and not be more proactive like in earlier stories.

The upside to the underwhelming Hartnell is that the companions get to shine. In particular, Michael Craze gets to show some chops as Ben. This is no more evident then in fighting a Cyberman in episodes two or episode three where he in fact becomes the focus of the episode. Anneke Willis plays up her role as 60's secretary Polly for the most part though even she gets some good scenes like the scene with her and others in the tracking room talking to the Cybermen in episode two. While Hartnell might not have shinned very brightly in this story, his companions sure did.

The supporting cast though is a mixed bunch. There is the pompous and over-the-top performance of Robert Beatty as General Cutler, who lacks any realism is and more like a walking talking cliche. On the upside there, is David Dodimead's wonderful Doctor Barclay who is as underplaying and believable in his role as Beatty is over the top. That in fact makes Dodimead the best of the supporting cast. While the supporting cast is mainly a group of nameless technicians, there is another group of supporting cast that stands out: the Cybermen.

These Cybermen may look rather silly physically with their cloth faces and car lights attached to their heads but there is potential in them that would later be realized and it is in fact these Cybermen's voices that really stand out some four plus decades later. These Cybermen may also lack the physicality of later stories like The Invasion or Earthshock, but one should keep in mind that these Cybermen are a product of their time. That said, while the Cybermen would have better stories later in the 60's (especially The Tomb Of The Cybermen and The Invasion) they make a striking debut here.

In fact, it is the Cybermen and the regeneration that raise up this whole story. Without both of them I suspect this would be just another average 1960's "Doctor/companions/supporting cast all under attack" story. Looking at the writing of this story in terms of both plotting and dialogue, there is really little stand out material except the dialogue introducing the Cybermen's background and lack of emotions in episode two. While it is not a bad story by any means, it lacks many elements of the "classic stories".

So how does The Tenth Planet hold up? Well, it has an underwhelming final show by the first Doctor, a good showing by his companions, a mixed supporting cast, the first appearance of the Cybermen, the first regeneration and an average script. It is true that while The Tenth Planet does have some stand-out elements, it is not a classic story. In fact, is rather average in many ways and a little undeserving of its legendary status in my opinion. In short: average but not great.


"This is an unknown power!" by Neil Clarke 18/12/90

Watched alongside The Next Doctor and Attack of the Cybermen in an inadvertent cyber-fest, it was fascinating having a chance to directly reconcile wildly disparate periods of Doctor Who. These stories couldn't be more different (despite all featuring the Cybermen) - and also none of them are very good examples of their eras.

Of the three stories, I actually found Attack the most enjoyable (bizarrely, as it is rubbish). It's gratifying to see the Sixth Doctor - magician's outfit and all - in an urban environment (a relatively unsanitised one, to boot), while Colin Baker's dangerously unhinged joie de vivre combined with how compelling he is when playing it straight come across particularly well.

Where Attack is infamously unfocused, with too many elements crammed in, The Tenth Planet is altogether more lacking. It has a status verging on the legendary, but this just isn't deserved.

As a huge fan of the sixties, and of Hartnell in particular, this story is a massive disappointment. It feels like what I guess non-fans'd expect Doctor Who of this era to be like: dull and naive and humourless. Which is ironic, as it barely feels like Doctor Who at all; it has a very 50s mentality (making a mockery of its then-future setting), while the Doctor, Polly and (at least initially) Ben, are barely involved. There are plenty of Doctor Who environments which would be perfectly compelling sans regulars, but unfortunately this isn't one of them.

The dynamism of The War Machines' extreme angles and crash-zooms is replaced here by choppy editing and an impetus-less story. Much as I love Ben and Polly, even they seem depressingly at home in this schlocky situation; they seem like the arbitrary young couple archetype they normally surpass. Polly is saddled with some particularly dubious B-movie expository dialogue, while Ben is reduced to narrating aloud what he's doing (though Michael Craze's likeability and evident devotion to the character still carries the part; that he's a fox and looks good with a machine gun undeniably helps).

The story itself is undermined by cliched characters like the tediously intransient Dyson, and hokey science. (The idea of a mirror-image planet rolling up is stupid enough to work on Doctor Who terms, but patently inaccurate scientific ideas such as said planet turning into a sun, and the boring-as-sin space programme, are rather more unforgivable.) Although mainly due to the upside-down globe used to represent Mondas, that it takes so long to realise why the planet looks 'so familiar' makes the production seem particularly moronic.

On the other hand, despite his James Mason/John Wayne/Clark Gable shtick, General Cutler is quite threatening because rather than being 'bad' per se, he simply has no respect for the Doctor. (The blunt line, 'I don't like your face. Nor your hair,' is surprisingly shocking for its relative crudeness.) He's still rather tedious though, and that's the most memorable character of the lot!

As a late video release, The Tenth Planet hasn't become an established bastion of Doctor Who in the way the earliest VHS releases are (your Arks in Space and Days of the Daleks; the ones which invariably turn up in car boot sales) - despite its nebulous 'legendary' status. As such, the Cybermen here feel almost like retrospectively-devised Hartnell-era parodies of the Earthshock and Troughton versions. You couldn't make up a more 60s-looking version of the Cybermen! However, they work, if mainly in concept over realisation (though my appreciation of this design does owe a lot to Adrian Salmon's DWM Cybermen strip, which made them look fantastically low-tech, chunky, and powerful).

There's something grotesque about their crudeness, which is lacking in all later versions: the sense that they really are corpses with technological additions bolted on. With their creepy, doll-like faces, the Cybermen are arguably at their most potent here. (Helped by their booming theme, which sounds pleasingly - if unexpectedly - like something from Liars' Drum's Not Dead album.)

Though due to unavoidable rewrites, it does seem somewhat inexcusable that, in the swansong of the original Doctor, Hartnell gets very little send off. It's certainly no finale; it's only episode three in which he is completely written out, but even when present, he barely gets anything to do. (Has the Doctor ever been so passive in scenes where he's present? At least his apparent prescience is interesting.) It's fortunate then that when he does appear, Hartnell is on great form - both playful and exuding great authority (he is especially at his commanding best in episode four). He genuinely enlivens the scenes he's actually in, and is the main source of enjoyment in this lacklustre story.

It's hard to judge the first regeneration from The Tenth Planet, as it is only actually addressed in Power of the Daleks. I like the mysteriousness of the Doctor's change - but still wish there were more build-up to it. God knows, I hate to think how overblown David Tennant's exit from the show will be, due to Russell T Davies' all-too-keen awareness of the expectations surrounding it, so maybe it's best to appreciate the low-key nature of this initial, ground-breaking change. In fact, the poor-quality footage of the build-up to the regeneration used in the VHS reconstruction - grainy, strobbing images; all throbbing menace - is rather glorious; the whole thing has a climactic feel despite its lack of buildup. As James Allenby points out, there is an eeriness to this regeneration which is unmatched by any of those to come, where it would become a somewhat flashier, more crowd-pleasing (and obviously, expected) occurrence.

There is pathos in Hartnell's last weakened handful of lines, increased by their understatedness ('Keep warm') - in comparison to a speech contrived to show how 'fantastic' he was. In fact, there is a wonderful weary sadness to his final dialogue, despite how little light it sheds on what is about to happen. I suppose, viewed in this way, even the Doctor's marginalisation from the story adds to the poignancy of what amounts to his death.